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Kofi Annan

Kofi Atta Annan (born April 8, 1938) is the seventh and current Secretary-General of the United Nations.



Early years and family

Annan was born to Henry Reginald and Victoria Annan on April 8, 1938, in Kumasi, Ghana. His given name means "born on a Friday." Annan was a twin, an occurrence that is regarded as special in Ghanaian culture; his twin sister Efua died in 1991.

Annan's family was part of the country's elite; both of his grandfathers and his uncle were tribal chiefs. His father was half Asante and half Fante; his mother was Fante. Annan's father worked for a long period as an export manager from the Lever Brothers cocoa company.

Annan is married to Nane Maria (Lagergren) Annan of Sweden, a lawyer and artist who is the half-niece of Raoul Wallenberg. The couple have three children, including Kojo Annan who was implicated in the Oil for Food program scandal. [1]


Annan (left) with Robert Mugabe (right)
Annan (left) with Robert Mugabe (right)

From 1954 to 1957, Annan attended the elite Mfantsipim School , a Methodist boarding school in Cape Coast founded in the 1870s. Annan has said that the school taught him "that suffering anywhere concerns people everywhere". In 1957, the year Annan graduated from Mfantsipim, Ghana became the second British colony in Africa (after South Africa) to become independent.

In 1958, Annan began studying for a degree in economics at the Kumasi College of Science and Technology, now the University of Science and Technology. He received a Ford Foundation grant, enabling him to complete his undergraduate studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, United States in 1961. Annan then studied at the Institute for Advanced International Studies (Institut universitaire des hautes études internationales) in Geneva, Switzerland, from 196162, later attending the MIT Sloan School of Management (197172) as a Sloan Fellow and receiving a Master of Science degree in management.

Annan is fluent in English, French, Fante and other dialects of Akan, and other African languages.

Early career

Annan started working for the World Health Organization, an agency of the United Nations, in 1962. From 1974 to 1976, Annan worked as the Director of Tourism in Ghana.

Following that, he returned to work for the United Nations as an Assistant Secretary-General in three consecutive positions: Human Resources Management and Security Coordinator from 1987 to 1990, Program Planning, Budget and Finance, and Controller from 1990 to 1992, and Peacekeeping Operations from March 1993 to February 1994. Annan was then an Undersecretary-General until October 1995, when he was made a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia, serving for five months in this capacity and returning to his duties as Undersecretary-General in April 1996.

Secretary-General of the United Nations

On December 13, 1996, Annan was selected by the UN Security Council to be Secretary-General and was confirmed four days later by the General Assembly. Annan took the oath of office without delay, starting his first term as Secretary-General on January 1, 1997. Annan replaced outgoing Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, becoming the first person from a black African nation to become Secretary-General.

In his book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, ex-General Roméo Dallaire claims that Annan was overly passive in his response to the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. Dallaire claims that Annan, the head of the peacekeeping mission in Rwanda at that time, held back UN troops from intervening to settle the conflict and from providing more logistic and material support.

Annan's Secretary-Generalship was renewed on January 1, 2002, an unusual deviation from informal policy. The office usually rotates around the continents, with two terms each; since Annan's predecessor Ghali was also an African, normally Annan would have only served one term. However, in this case Annan was able to secure reappointment.

In April 2001, the Secretary-General issued a five-point "Call to Action" to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Annan sees this epidemic as his "personal priority" as Secretary-General and in life in general. He proposed the establishment of a Global AIDS and Health Fund to stimulate increased spending needed to help developing countries confront the HIV/AIDS crisis.

On December 10, 2001, Annan and the United Nations jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize, "for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world".

Annan was Secretary-General during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and called for the U.S. and UK not to invade without UN support. In 2004 Annan called the invasion and occupation illegal.

On November 17, 2004, Annan accepted a report clearing UN Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services Dileep Nair of graft and Censored page charges. This action was not viewed favorably by many UN staff, leading to extensive debate on November 19.

In December 2004, United States Republican Senator Norm Coleman called for Annan's resignation after reports surfaced that his son received payments from a Swiss company that won a lucrative contract under the UN Oil for Food program. Annan is viewed by some to be partly responsible for the corruption in that program. Outside the United States, Annan has few opponents; he has the unanimous support of the UN Security Council. [2],0005.htm


Quotations of Kofi Annan

  • "You can do a lot with diplomacy, but with diplomacy backed up by force you can get a lot more done." - February 24, 1998, regarding the use of force to gain compliance from Saddam Hussein [3]
  • "He is very calm - very, very calm. Never raises his voice. Well-informed, contrary to the sense outside that he is ill-informed and isolated. And decisive." (February 24, 1998 press conference regarding Saddam Hussein - [4] )
  • "Well, the issue of a standing UN army has been raised by many because, quite frankly, the way we operate today is like telling Ottawa that I know you need a fire station but we will build one when the fire breaks. We have no army. When the crisis breaks then we begin to put an army together. We go around to governments and begin asking for troops. The question with a standing UN army is that it raises issues of budget issues, legal issues, where do you place it, under what jurisdiction? And the big boys, big countries don't want it. The smaller countries are also nervous." [5]

Quotations about Kofi Annan

  • We not only have confidence in him, we support him fully. He is in a very difficult job under very difficult circumstances, but we continue to have hope that he is doing his best. We only want his senior management to exhibit the transparency and accountability that he has proscribed for the organization. [6]
— Rosemarie Waters , president of the United Nations Staff Union
  • We in Europe hold Kofi Annan in high esteem and recognise his unstinting efforts in the cause of peace and democracy.
Jacques Chirac
  • We are not suggesting or pushing for the resignation of the secretary-general. We have worked well with him in the past and look forward to working with him for some time in the future. [7]
United States ambassador John Danforth

External links

Biographies, interviews, and profiles

  • Official UN biography
  • Nobel Peace Prize biography
  • Kofi Annan: Center of the Storm Detailed PBS profile. Includes interactive biography and map of Annan's worldwide travels, among other things. Requires Flash.
  • Kofi Annan: An Online News Hour Focus A compliation of information, interviews, and initiatives about and by Kofi Annan, by the website of the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. From 1998-1999.
  • Kofi Annan: Biographical Note Basic biograhy by Phyllis Bennis of the Global Policy Forum.
  • One-on-one with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan October 1998 interview of Kofi Annan by Kevin Chappell of Ebony.


  • Statements of Secretary-General Kofi Annan
  • Nobel Peace Prize lecture

News and views

  • UN Flag burning in NH over Kofi Annan
    Keene NH 12/18/2004
  • United Nations Secretary-General Homepage
  • "UK 'spied on UN's Kofi Annan'" (BBC) February 26, 2004.

Preceded by:
Boutros Boutros-Ghali
United Nations Secretary-General Succeeded by:
Current Incumbent

Last updated: 02-07-2005 08:46:11
Last updated: 02-18-2005 14:05:20